Are You Leading With An Abundance Or Scarcity Mindset?

“Talent is always conscious of its own abundance and does not object to sharing.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Scarcity vs. Abundance

Abundance mindset is a concept Stephen Covey popularized in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is the belief that there’s enough for everyone. Leaders with an abundance mindset focus on possibilities and are not hindered by limiting beliefs.

The opposite is a scarcity mindsetthere is only so much to go around. Leaders with a scarcity mindset focus their energy on what is lacking and get stuck in a loop of “not enough-ness.” Not enough time, not enough budget, not enough people, not enough support, etc.

Continually operating in a scarcity mentality stymies innovation and growth. Why take risks, collaborate, or share resources if someone else’s win is my loss?

On the contrary, those who lead with an abundance mentality focus on what’s in their control, find ways to “expand the pie” and celebrate the success of others.

Which leader would you rather work with?

Spotting a Leader with a Scarcity or Abundance Mindset

The leader consumed by a scarcity mindset:

  • Holds on to top talent for themselves, discourages team members from seeking assignments in other parts of the organization and blocks promotions or transfers
  • Has difficulty sharing recognition, credit or power
  • Sees everything as a competition (for talent, budget, influence)
  • Focuses on limitations and why ideas or decisions won’t or can’t work
  • Creates an environment where fear and politics flourish and innovation is stifled
  • Views themselves as a victim

Conversely, the leader who operates with abundance mentality:

  • Shares ideas and resources and believes there is enough to go around
  • Actively pursues new opportunities
  • Delights when others succeed, and isn’t threatened by other people’s success
  • Feels secure in their job and place within the organization
  • Encourages and provides their team opportunities for development and growth
  • Fosters an environment of psychological safety

Cultivating an Abundance Mindset

  1. Lead with curiosity. Train your brain’s first response to be open-minded, curious and welcoming to new ideas or possibilities. “What If we tried…? How can we get the results we want…? What needs to change to make this work…?”
  2. Think Like A Novice. Assume you don’t have all the answers, even in areas you feel like an expert. Be willing to change your mind and approach.
  3. Share the credit. Generously shine the spotlight on others. Let people know you value their contributions. Remind your team they are needed and their work is important.
  4. Encourage experimentation. Allow your team to research and test new ideas. Focus not only on what works, but spend time reflecting on mistakes and failures without judgement or blame.
  5. Reframe your language and perspective. Leaders with an abundance mindset aren’t mired in the negative. They see mistakes as lessons to learn from. They view change as adapting to new conditions. They view obstacles or resistance as useful data points to create better results.

A leader’s mindset is infectious. Infusing an abundance mentality within the workplace breaks down silos, encourages innovation and strengthens collaboration.

Marta Steele is a partner @People_Results.